FILMS… Mystery Men (1999)



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A bunch of misfit superheroes hope to save Captain Amazing from the clutches of the Evil Casanova Frankenstein.


Mystery Men – Trailer, UniversalMoviesIN and photos from Universal Pictures


As a wee girl, I was brought up with a diet of Seventies TV superheroes of  The Amazing Spider-Man (1977-79), Wonder Woman (1975-79) and The Incredible Hulk (1977-82). The next decade brought me movies with TV showings of the film quadrilogy of Superman (1978) with Christopher Reeve as the titular superhero.

As for the cinema, there were the Batman (1989-) films, where in the first, I loved Jack Nicholson’s Joker more than Keaton’s Batman. I believe that Nicholson rightly or wrongly stole the franchise before it even started. That was that… along with blissful ignorance of all things Camp DC and Camp Marvel.

How my life would change on meeting the man who later would become my Darlin Husband almost three decades later. Almost in foresight of what would come, he took me on a date to a superhero film, Watchmen (2009). A film I luckily enjoyed but the plot went over my head wondering if the Nite Owl bloke was really an earlier Batman.

This leading to a gentle mansplanation after the movie (and a snog) from my date. Then much more recently, stepdude number 2  became obsessed with all those often caped wonders from DC and Marvel. Leading to us as a family – during our pizza movie Saturdays – viewing superheroes in all shapes and forms, from animation to Lego to live action, from Superman (1978) to more recently Thor Ragnarok (2017). So what movie to choose?

In a bid for a more unique choice, my first choice was Watchmen. But after watching it now, I found after the first 20 minutes, it was a dark, depressing and gloomy Zack Snyder movie. I gave up on it. Despite the fact, its interesting alternate history storyline had been mansplained (again) by my husband, and I had loved it on the first showing.

Then, after searching through our immense sadly unorganised DVD  collection – making a mental note to sort it out (again) – I whittled it down to Antman (2015) and Logan (2017). As to my superhero purist husband, those Guardians of the Galaxy are still not considered superheroes. This is despite the fact, that we’ll see them fighting the GoonieJosh Brolin  Thanos along with every Marvel character ever in Avengers Infinity War (2018) for the 5 minutes allotted to each of them. As there are so many of them.

After a recommendation of this obscure wee comic superhero movie from Darlin Husband, I went for Mystery Men (1999) and it’s a bunch, flight squad – what’s the collective noun for superheroes? – of crazily attired superheroes. Watching the trailer first, got my interest.

It had one of my favourite actors, Greg Kinnear heading this all-star cast in this zany comedy as Captain Amazing. The villain was Geoffrey Rush starring with Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria and William H Macy as a trio of underdog superheroes.

The film’s opening scenes show a CGI city at night (that Ed Wood (1994) would be proud of), namely the location of this film,  Champion City.  You can make out a huge statue of a man with a giant “A” emblem made out on his chest dominating the skyline. On entering a nursing home party, the elderly residents are attending an all singing all dancing show with similarly aged participants. All are enjoying their wee night of fun.

Suddenly some men with what looks like night vision goggles, but known as the Red Eyes burst in. Following instruction by their rather portly looking ringleader, the gang take the old people’s jewels, money “and toupees!” The ringleader is distracted by some cake and shows absolutely no table manners while eating it. Three bizarre-looking superheroes burst in to save the day and criticise his lack of social skills.

There’s pit helmeted, The Shoveler (who er hits the bad guys with a shovel), played by Macy.  Azaria as The Blue Raja, complete with a turban (a terribly talented, terribly English cutlery thrower, but only armed with forks and spoons). Ben Stiller’s there as Mr Furious, whose temper makes him go ballistic. But he’s a pussy cat compared to the Hulk.

With the bad guys disempowering the superhero trio, Captain Amazing (Kinnear) turns up at the crime scene. The Red Eyes are dispatched one by one… The superhero trio is impressed and as the four leave, Macy is approached by a weapons designer who offers his services. The underachieving trio is ridiculed by the cops for their assistance, as Captain Amazing impresses the press via his PR Officer.

Afterwards, in his limo home, Captain Amazing is moaning about the lack of supervillains in his life. His sponsors – as seen in the array of brand names on his costume – are restless and he needs front page news to keep them happy. It turns out that Champion City has no superheroes left as he’s had them killed, exiled or had them incarcerated.

He remembers them all, with fond thoughts of his encounter with Casanova Frankenstein (Rush) who resides in the local mental health hospital. In a bid for a headlining story, Captain Amazing dispatches a plan. Disguised as his alter ego – ie donning spectacles – Lance Hunt he gives a passionate speech at Casanova’s parole hearing.

Hunt reports that Captain Amazing feels compassion should be shown to this shady villain. And with the support of Casanova’s girlfriend and psychiatrist Dr Anabel Leek. (Lena Olin), Casanova is freed. Casanova with his girl and his henchmen – Tony P (Eddie Izzard) in platform boots and the Disco Boys – by his side, Casanova reveals his evil plan to take over Champion City, in a delightful demonstration as he blows up the hospital.

However, shortly after this Captain Amazing confronts Casanova in his home. He is knocked out by Casanova’s enticing chloroform device. This is observed by Roy aka Mr Furious who had followed the Disco boys to his home.  Roy enrols the others to help save Captain Amazing. But first, they need more superhero assistance, hoping for help from the mysterious Sphinx and auditioning for more additions to their little superhero league…

This film is a wonderful addition to the superhero genre. The film has many well-staged genuinely funny moments and some great comic writing. The cast was wonderfully brought together as those underdog superheroes, with an unlikely cast of actors (and an actress) to match. Greg Kinnear, as Captain Amazing was the only one I could see cast in the DC or Marvel Movies, due to his chiselled good looks.

Kinnear hammed his character up with an over smug, overconfident persona and presence. At times this character having to superherosplain and overly patronise others be it the public, a villain or his superhero peers. The others although not with your typical superhero looks superseded this with their wonderfully comic interpretations of the characters. With Shovel Man and Raja’s alter egos shown in surprising scenarios.

There were great comic scenes such as the audition scenes for budding superheroes to join their posse. Leading to the addition of two more fun characters. The Sphinx joined in the fun, with his wonderfully deep and meaningful sayings in an almost tongue in cheek wise counsel role.

The casting of the villain was perfect with Geoffrey Rush playing Casanova Frankenstein. He appeared to relish this role completely completing it with an accent that Boris Karloff would be proud of. He was ably supported by his Disco Loving henchmen, who were accompanied by a 70s musical soundtrack that almost outshone them.

There’s also a lovely wee budding romance interest for one of the misfit superhero trio sweetly played by Claire Forlani. I spotted lots of in movie references to other films of this genre. Lena Olin’s role as the villain’s girl and psychiatrist reminding me of the Joker’s Harley Quinn.

The underdogs’ role as underachievers, ridiculed by the police reminiscent of the situation experienced by the Suicide Squad (2016) characters. There are also some fun references to other films of this type including Superman. The CGI effects were wonderfully executed to over the top proportions with some wonderfully amazing architectural visions of the mental health hospital and the villain’s lair.

Fun, well-staged comedy filled montages added to the humour. All in all, it was a wonderful recommendation, and if you like me needed a break from the DC and Marvel… why not extend your Superhero universe to this movie and make a flying visit to your local rental store to beat the Rush (cape optional).

Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 /10

Handsqueeze Rating🙂 🙂  🙂 🙂 🙂  🙂  /10

Hulk Rating: ‎ mrgreen mrgreen mrgreen mrgreen  ‎/10


We Love Superheroes Week, 2018 No 3

This post was added to Hamlette’s Soliloquy‘s We Love Superheroes Week. Other reviews on this site with this cast include Greg Kinnear in As Good as it Gets and Ben Stiller in Zoolander Starsky and Hutch and Fresh Horses. William H Macy is featured in my Fargo review and Lena Olin in Chocolat and Welcome to Sweden.


6 thoughts on “FILMS… Mystery Men (1999)

  1. I have seen the movie a while back so I can’t remember much but I thought it was a decent movie, some parts I kind wish I can unseen though.

    have a lovely day.

  2. Nice review, Gill! I enjoyed reading about your introduction to superhero movies, and how they eventually led to meeting your husband. I’ve always liked Mystery Men, and never thought it got the attention it deserved. Parodies are difficult, and for the most part, I think the filmmakers pulled it off quite well. One of my favorite characters was The Sphinx, for his muddled non-wisdom.

  3. I remember seeing this in the theater with my 2 best friends. We smuggled in a pack of Twizzlers and ate them. I’ve loved the song “All Star” by Smashmouth ever since. I watched it again on VHS with my college friends. And somehow, all I remember are William H. Macy and his shovel plus Janeane Garofalo and her embedded-skull bowling ball. I had totally forgotten the plot AND that Greg Kinnear was even in it! So thanks for this refresher 🙂 I do also remember it was a fun and funny movie, and I laughed a lot during it.

Love your thoughts... but only if they are spoiler free!

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